MURDER ON THE BLACKPOOL EXPRESS. Gold, UK, 11 November 2017. Johnny Vegas (Terry), Sian Gibson (Gemma), Sheila Reid, Katy Cavanagh, Una Stubbs (her final performance), Nina Wadia, Kimberley Nixon , Matthew Cottle, Nigel Havers, Javone Prince, Susie Blake, Mark Heap, Griff Rhys Jones, Kevin Eldon. Written by Jason Cook. Directed by Simon Delaney. Currently streaming on BritBox.

   As I’ve always firmly maintained, humor is a funny thing. The viewers’ comments on IMDb about this recent comedy mystery from England are all over the place. What this is, in a way, is a takeoff on Murder on the Orient Express, except that the train is a British tour bus, taking its passengers to each of the murder scenes in the list of a famous mystery writer’s novels. He, David (Griff Rhys Jones) is of course along to squeeze every last shilling from their wallets and purses, what with gifts and souvenirs at each stop.

   It is also a takeoff from those “old dark house” movies that were all the rage in the 30s and 40s, without losing track of the fact that every so often they’re still popular today. Except that the passengers are trapped in a bus, and every time it stops, someone gets killed, and in a fashion very reminiscent of the murder in David’s books.

   In charge of this disaster on wheels are driver Terry (Johnny Vegas) and tour guide Genna (Sian Gibson), whose joint venture this is is about to go bust if the tour is not a success. The passengers are a motley lot. Many are elderly and/or suffer from dementia, secrets, or other mental failings. Dotty, you might say. All of them. Some more than others.

   Gradually, though, as the ranks thin out — either having become victims or having decided that staying on this wholly unexpected mystery tour is a whole lot more than they signed up for, bail out early – each of them unexpectedly begin to flesh out. Not in any Dostoevsky sense, mind you, but more than the caricatures of living, breathing people merely taking up seats they began as.

   The mystery is not bad, either, with a killer whose motive makes sense, even though there may not quite be enough clues to allow the viewer to solve the case ahead of time. (Red herrings, though? by the bucketful.)

   I enjoyed this, even as over the top as it often is. It was successful enough on its first showing to produce not only two sequels, Death on the Tyne (2018) and Dial M for Middlesbrough (2019), but a three-part miniseries, Murder, They Hope (2021), in which Gemma and Terry have given up the tour business and set up shop as private investigators. I see no reason why not.